Railroad changes Salem crossing plans

SALEM – Railroad crossings announced as closed today for a rail replacement project include Pershing Street and West Wilson Street, with the Allen Road crossing expected to reopen sometime today.

The closure of all railroad crossings in the city on Tuesday didn’t occur as expected, with only the Allen Road crossing shut down.

City Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst said he was not told until Tuesday that the plans had changed, with a RoadSafe official notifying him of the work to be done. RoadSafe serves as the traffic control company for Norfolk Southern,

In July, all the crossings were closed at the same time with no notification given to the city, resulting in city officials demanding more advance notice of any crossing closings so the public could be notified ahead of time. Kenst received a call two weeks ago about the plans to close all the crossings on Sept. 2 and for the crossings at South Lincoln Avenue and Pershing to remain closed until Sept. 15.

Now he said he’s been told that work requiring the closing of Pershing and West Wilson today should be done by the end of the day. As for other crossings and when they will close, including the busy South Lincoln Avenue, he said he hasn’t been told anything beyond today’s work.

“The information keeps changing,” he said. “We’re trying to keep everybody informed.”

When asked why the worst-case scenario didn’t happen, he said no reason was given for why the closing plans had changed. He updated city council members during their meeting Tuesday night, which was televised on the Time Warner cable public access channel, noting that “the city is not in control of this project.” The rail replacement is a Norfolk Southern project.

“This may be an inconvenience, but it’s necessary for safety reasons at all the crossings,” Kenst said, adding “maybe it’s not going to be as bad as we originally thought.”

Kenst said he’ll continue to be in contact with a RoadSafe representative to keep the public informed of what crossings will be closed and when they’ll be closed. The Salem Police Department has been using social media to update the public on the closings as soon as the information becomes available.